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Wendy Buckingham  /  Creator, Life Coaching Professionally

12 Coaching Skills That Define A Professional Life Coach

Becoming a proficient life coach requires specific coaching skills that define your ability to help your clients get the best for themselves. This checklist quiz will help you identify the core attributes you may already have, or need to work on to become credible and successful.

Take this easy life coaching skills quiz and focus your skills

1. Are you willing to get trained and qualified?

You may think you already know what coaching is all about and how to do it. You may even already be qualified and practising as a psychologist, counsellor or mentor. 

But coaching is a different and specific skill-set and until you have had some specific life coach training in with accredited courses you may not have a proper understanding of how coaching  compliments yet differs from other disciplines. 

Get a handle on the questions you need to ask to make sure you get a credible certification here

2. Can you keep a secret?

Young woman with her finger to her lips in 'silence' gesture.

The client must know that the coaching relationship and anything that comes up in the session is totally confidential unless he or she gives you permission to share.

This is especially relevant if someone other than the client is paying for the coaching (such as in a corporate  or family situation). In those cases, you must be very clear and firm in your initial agreement about the boundaries of what you can share with the third party who is paying.

Bottom line? You must be able to keep a secret.

3.  Objectivity: Can you be involved but stay detached?

A core coaching skill is to be involved enough to be empathic and enthusiastic. Yet to be truly objective you must stay emotionally detached from the issue at hand or the outcome.. 

Of course you are going to have your own opinions and biases, (show me someone who hasn’t!). When you become a life coach you will have to learn to keep your own biases out of the coaching picture, or at least own up to it before you share your perspective with your client.

This is especially true if you are coaching clients who may have had a similar experience to yourself. You have to remember your client is not you and their experience and solutions will not be theirs not yours.  

4.  Can you be supportive yet firm?

Are you able and willing to hold your client accountable for their actions in a way that is supportive to them but doesn't stand for any nonsense?

In the initial session with your client, let them know they are paying you to discover with them what could be the real issues, even if that truth is confronting for them. As one of my coaches once  said to me "Wendy you are paying me to call you on your sh&#@ so you can move forward".

But you don't have to put it as bluntly as that:)!

5.  Can You Answer The Question "What is Life Coaching" or "What Do You Do"?

You're going to get asked "so what's lifecoaching?" or, "what do you do?" at a party or networking event. Are you ready to answer it?

If you want to make the right impression you need to be able to answer easily and congruently - and for many new coaches it's not easy.  As a result you potentially lose credibility and clients.

How to answer the question "what do you do?"

If you are struggling for inspiration, I unreservedly recommend this excellent free webinar offered by Cindy Schulson to help you get it right,

3 Steps to creating the life coaching skill of expressing your authentic message

Cindy is a marketing expert with huge experience who has made her speciality coaching people to find their special voice and express themselves in a way that is engaging from the heart and inspiring to prospective clients. Discover more...

6.  Can you comply with the strong life coaching ethics?

At the heart of good life coaching is authenticity and integrity. So you need to become familiar with and follow the ethical guidelines for life coaching such as those set out here by the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Different independent coaching associations have similar guidelines.

7.  Can you stand apart from judgement?

If you aspire to be a life coach you must have a very strong natural acceptance and respect for other people, warts and all, and do your best not to let your biases or judgments show.

However, you may choose not to work with clients who reveal they have beliefs or behaviours that may be completely unacceptable to you, in conflict with your values or that you do not feel comfortable with.

Know your limits as a coach and recognise when you should acknowledge that you are not a good match to a prospective client, or may need to refer them to a therapist or a consultant.

8.  Do you have good listening skills?

One of the most important life coaching skills is to develop great observation and listening techniques. This involves hearing or observing what is often NOT being said and hone in on the real issues.

This is one of the core abilities of an empathetic and intuitive coach. If you don't believe you have it, the good news is that it can be developed. Mine was in a vital and long module during my coach training with CoachU!

9.  Are you willing to let the client do the work?

Essentially, life coaching is client driven – they take the wheel, you question, encourage guide, stretch and direct but never insist on them taking a certain path unless they are ready and “get” for themselves that is the way to go.

Young woman learning to drive with driving instructor.

One of the most important life coaching skills is to be able to hold in check your natural desire to advise, control or manipulate your clients even when it is clear to your perspective what needs to happen.

I believe you may make suggestions sometimes to get the client thinking but it should never be presented as advice. 

10.  Can you let the client take the credit?

Are you able to coach without needing acknowledgment? A good coach does not take credit for what their clients achieve - at least not to the client.☺

Instead, a truly great life coach will praise the client and let them take all the credit for all their successes.

However, this does not replace the value of their endorsement of your work. The place for them to really sing your praises is in their testimonial.

Unsure how to get a client testimonial? Read my page on How to Easily Get Life Coach Client Testimonials from a delighted client!

11. Are you flexible in how you coach and communicate?

Each of us naturally has our preferred manner of coaching.  Some prefer face to face and some prefer phone or online coaching. One of the key coaching skills needed is the willingness to be flexible with all approaches. 

Although online doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, a huge proportion of coaching is now done over the phone or online via Skype, Zoom or similar, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here's a discussion on some of the options for delivering your coaching.

12. Have you been coached yourself?

If after reading this checklist of coaching skills, you think you have or can develop the key skills and are getting excited about becoming a Life Coach, pause a moment and consider the following before you jump ship from your current job.

Have you been coached yourself?

If not I strongly recommend having a few coaching sessions with a trained life coach. Ensure that they have been trained by a reputable coaching school. Experiencing good coaching from a qualified coach will give you a good taste of what life coaching is really about. Discover more...

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© Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Created and written by Wendy Buckingham, Class One Productions P/L. Sydney

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